Hydrologic Engineering Prior to 600 B.C.

The development of the science of hydrology is traced from about 3500 B.C. to 600 B.C., from the recorded historical events. It starts with the Egyptian Pharaoh King Scorpion of the fourth millennium, and the legendary King Menes who dammed the Nile to divert it so that his capital Memphis could be built on the old fertile river bed. The ill-fated Sadd el-Kafara dam, which probably failed in its first flood season, and the work of the great Chinese engineer King Yü, are described. Flood control measures of King Amenemhet III of Egypt were admirable, and so were the nilometers, which can be traced back to about 3500 B.C. The latter obviously were a form of quantitative measurement of the river-flow-the earliest in history. Also considered are the famous code of King Hammurabi, sinnors of Palestine, irrigation and drainage systems of Nippur, the primitive water meters of Oasis Gadames and Yemen, Marib Dam of Yemen, aqueducts of King Sennacherib, and the qenāt system of utilization of ground water. A chronology of recorded hydrologic engineering events is given.

By Asit K. Biswas, 1967. Article published in Journal of the Hydraulics Division, Volume 93, Number 5, pages 115-136. DOI: 10.1061/JYCEAJ.0002034

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